Saturday, June 30, 2007

Doctor Who finale

Wow.

...

...

Sorry, still reeling from the amazingness that was the final episode of Doctor Who. I think there are still red marks on my face from where I was clutching it. It's been a long, loooong time since I read/watched something where I was so convinced the mains had no chance of getting out alive. I'm so, so happy the series managed to get back on form during its second half - I was beginning to think it was circling the drain there for a while. But, this last episode was one of the best yet, definitely. F-ing brilliant writing complemented, as always, by its stellar cast. Tennant and Agyeman acted their socks off (as always) and John Simms was just deliciously evil as the Master (I knew he was going to be coming back. I have the Shining as far as these things go, lol!) Not to mention that total surprise about the eventual fate of good old Cap'n Jack. Sad to see Martha leaving, though. I was hoping she'd stay on.

I'm a happy little sci-fi fangirl. I was almost ready to give up on Doctor Who, but my faith is totally restored. I just hope that in the next series, they don't throw in so many dud episodes where the only worthwhile part is the last five minutes where there's some hint for the last episode.

Great. Bloody great. And it's so welcome, especially seeing as the prospects for our intended holiday down to London are looking a bit leery.

Ah, well. Can't wait till Christmas!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Blast from the past

Wow. Was cleaning out my room today and what should I find under my bed, but the ring binders containing the first completed "novel" wot I rote, and what I'd done of the second in the series. Due mainly to school, and some fanfic projects, and most recently the research for my historical, I hadn't touched the things in at least a year. So, naturally, for nostalgia's sake, I started flipping through them, remembering how I thought I was the absolute shit for completing a novel.

Retrospective rating: (shudder)

For a start - the clichés, dear God, the clichés.

Elves. Yeah.

Videogame logic.

Awful prose. Yeah, I know it's a given since I was fourteen, but it still buggers the mind to think I thought I was writing anything decent. Innocence is bliss.

The blatant evidence of "Mum and Dad are going to be reading this, so I'd better not write anything that might shock them".

The Mary Sue heroine. Granted, I had plans for her in the rest of the series, but in the first one... wow.

Attempts at making up own language. More than one, too. Warning: attempt only if your name is J.R.R Tolkien.

The map had no scale, no logic.


On the other hand, there were a few glimmers of good points:

Though their execution wasn't stellar, the characters (even Mary Sue heroine) had good, solid foundations and I had a fairly good grasp of their psychology for my age.

Hero wasn't a poor farmboy.

Twenty chapters and about two hundred pages is a bit of an achievement for a fourteen-year-old with a short attention span.

Though the plot was hackneyed, the world itself was fairly unique in that it wasn't a faux-medieval Middle-earth clone.

Weirdly enough, the romance subplot was pretty well thought-out, even if it hadn't been fully realised.

I didn't even try to include any "epic" poetry, since I knew full well I can't write it. (Can't even write haiku.)


It was quite a reminiscence. Totally cringeworthy, but it really threw into perspective how much I've grown in the last few years. I've got a long way to go yet, but at least I've managed to get the really godawful stuff out of my system.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Historically speaking...

One of the main ways to create an authentically historical atmosphere, I've noticed, is the use of dialogue. It's also harder for some eras than it is for others. Periods such as Victorian times or the Middle Ages have definite, recognised speech patterns and slang, so dialogue can be recreated fairly accurately.

Periods such as first century Scotland are a bit more problematic. Not as much for the Roman characters, because there are plenty of opportunities to get a feel for how Romans of all classes spoke, from the letters of Pliny the Younger, to the Vindolanda writing tablets, to the Pompeii graffiti. A bit more formal than modern speech, even in everyday conversation, but simple enough to emulate (with a few tweaks to make it sound a bit more natural to modern readers).

The Caledonian characters, however, are more of a challenge to "translate". They left no written records, so I don't have the same kinds of sources I do for my Roman characters. I wanted to give them a sort of accent that would be different from the Roman one, to get across that these are two different peoples speaking different languages, even though I'm writing in English. The problem: we don't know what language these people spoke, though it was probably a Brythonic tongue, so a proper accent is out.

So I decided to give them an accent that would get it across that they're an ancient Scots' ancestor people. The question is, how much of an accent? I want it to be distinctive from the Romans' speech modes, but I definitely don't want them to sound like refugees from The Broons. I've thought about giving them a little of my own accent, which is a kinda watered-down Glasgow one. The pitfall there, of course, is that I don't want them to sound Glaswegian, and the Glesgae accent is very recognisable, and if I got carried away, I could easily end up with Calgacus and his war-leaders sounding like a bunch of neds frae Chewin' the Fat. I can see them shouting down from the summit of Mons Graupius now: "Get it up yees, Romans!"

Don't want to go down that road. (lol)

At the moment, my Caledonians have a sort of faux-archaic speech pattern going on. I suppose I should just stop thinking about it consciously and let the accent reveal itself on its own as I write. I've learned from previous projects never to force anything, especially not dialogue.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Lloyd Alexander, and a reminiscence

I was very saddened to find out just a few minutes ago that Lloyd Alexander, author of the the Chronicles of Prydain, died on May 17.

I first read The Book of Three, the first in the series, in primary seven, when I found a copy on the class bookshelf. I remember being completely immersed, so much so that the teacher gave me into trouble for reading well into the Maths slot. I was only eleven, and I didn't really know anything about the Mabinogion or Welsh mythology in any real detail, but I can still clearly remember the sense of awe and pure transportation I encountered when I read that book, a sense I just hadn't encountered before while reading. Unfortunately, the school shelf didn't have the rest of the books and I spent several years searching, without success, in shops for them. I only read The High King last year, when a new edition of the series was published, but the Chronicles are without a doubt amongst my favourite books of all time.

Few books have touched me in quite the way the Chronicles of Prydain did, and they, along with The Hobbit, were among my first influences in writing when I was younger. When I was eleven, I only really consciously appreciated the adventure story and colourful characters, and while I still do, I can now appreciate the complexities of all those characters, the subtle links to mythology, but above all, Alexander's wonderfully understated wisdom and tenderness, in both his prose and his author's notes. And while Finn and Aoife, the hero and heroine of my own fantasy series, are very much their own characters, they will always have their roots somewhere in Taran and Eilonwy.

Goodbye, Mr. Alexander. I hope you found your Summer Country.